JUCO: From the Field

As 60 years of the Junior College World Series approaches this spring, Julia Maguire spoke with two former players about their experiences from the tournament.

Chris Hanks has called Suplizio Field home for nearly two decades as Colorado Mesa University's Head Baseball Coach, but his days at Suplizio go well beyond his days as a Maverick.

Growing up in Carbondale, Hanks and his family would make the trip up to Grand Junction every year for the Junior College World Series.  Years later, in 1988, he got his shot on the field at Suplizio, suiting up along with three kids from Grand Junction for the College of Southern Idaho.

"We were the tourney favorite," said Hanks.  "We were the home team, so to speak.  We got bigger crowds, louder cheers, it was a lot of fun."

While Hanks and his team lost their first game, they made a run to the semifinals, and though they didn't go any further, Hanks was named World Series MVP that year.  To this day, he still remembers his team's tournament run.

"We're alive, we've won three in a row now, teams are getting eliminated," said Hanks.  "I remember sitting on the bed in the hotel after each win and we'd see how long we could leave our uniforms on.  We didn't want to take our uniforms off, we didn't want to lose that good feeling we had.  I remember that pretty clearly."

For a locals, like Hanks, he knew what to expect heading into the tournament, but for most players, like Andy Weaver, he had never seen Suplizio before.

"The atmosphere, playing in that big of a stadium coming from a small junior college in Kansas was amazing," said Weaver, who pitched for Butler County Community College in the 1994 World Series.  "The crowd, the support, the energy that was there, it was quite the experience for young kids."

While Weaver's team finished third that year, despite hopes of a World Series trophy, he said he got something far greater in return.

"Not to be too cliche, but I met the woman of my dreams," said Weaver.  "I met my wife there.  She was one of the waitresses at the JUCO Banquet."

After JUCO, Weaver went on to play Division I baseball at Northeast Louisiana University, now known as the University of Louisiana at Monroe.  After a professional career in an independent minor league, Weaver eventually found his way back to the Grand Valley, and now has four sons with his wife, Megan.

"Look what came of it," said Weaver.  "I have four amazing young men and a life that I love and a community that I love to be in.  "It's all worked out for the right reasons."

Hanks, as well, played in the minor leagues in the Boston Red Sox organization, but he said his days of JUCO still trump the others.

"As I tell our guys, nothing will be as fun as your college years, and I really believe that."

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